The time has come for the Chief Rabbinate to assume its rightful place as the compass of our Nation, raising the banner of Torah as our national flag, just as our great and fearless Sages once rallied the Children of Israel.

Tzvi Fishman

OpEds בקשת עזרה דחופה. הרב קוק
בקשת עזרה דחופה. הרב קוק

The month of Nisan is a time of world renewal. The stagnation of winter comes to an end and the powers of life awaken with the coming of spring. Life marches on. In the words of Rabbi Kook, “The Redemption continues and progresses. The Redemption from Egypt, and the complete Redemption of the future, are one unending action (Orot, Israel and its Revival, 29).

The same force of renewal and development which is embedded in general existence is also true in our individual lives. Rebbe Nachman teaches that a Jew must always advance to higher and higher levels. “If a person progresses and reaches a higher level of spirituality, he should not stop there and content himself with his achievement. Rather, he must know and believe that he must still advance further. One has to aim constantly for a higher level (Advice, Repentence, 10). Not only must a person always strive for further progress and development, if he insists on remaining on the same level, he is destined to fall.

This applies to our national life as well. If we don’t move forward in fulfilling our mission as Am Yisrael, we fall backward. This can be seen today in the erasing of differences between the sexes, in “marriages” between the same sex, perverted definitions of parenting, and in the new mixed combat divisions in the army. These all reflect a craving to be like the gentile nations of the world, adopting all of their polluted values and social norms, and often going even further to prove that we can be more liberal, more pluralistic, and more unfettered than the gentiles. This phenomenon of national regression is not new to our history. It happened at Sinai with the Golden Calf, at Midian, and in Hellenist times. When we abandon our Divine identity and national calling as G-d’s Chosen Nation, we return to Sodom and Gomorrah, and to the days before the Flood, when, as Rashi explains, there was such wanton licentiousness that even different species of animals mated one with the other (Bereshit, 6:12).

Today, nationally, we are suffering from a long winter’s hibernation. Shakespeare might note: “Something is rotten in the State of Israel.”  There is a crippling national malaise which can be diagnosed as a chronic lack of vision. Or a national Alzheimers. We have forgotten who we are. At best, we have become a nation similar to other nations, whose only goal is to insure the security of its citizens and to develop the national economy. Prime Minister Netanyahu is a master of preserving the status quo, and improving the economy, but he keeps Israel standing in the same place with no national agenda or goal. While Israel’s continued existence sanctifies the Name of G-d in the world, the governments of Israel have never made the Sanctification of Hashem one of our national priorities.

The month of Nisan is a good time to wake up and remember who we are - the people whom Hashem chose to be “a light to the nations,” and a “kingdom of kohanim and a holy Nation.” Rabbi Kook reminds us:

“Israel knows to tell that the G-d of Israel is the G-d of the world, Creator of Heaven and Earth, who created everything for His honor. This knowledge is the essential spirit of Israel, the inheritance from its ancestors and its inner consciousness, penetrating each heart and soul, intertwined with its faith, its history, its overcoming all opposition, its miraculous endurance against its many oppressors who succumbed and fell, while it rose and continued” (Orot, Israel and its Revival, 1).

When Israel forgets who it is, and seeks to be a nation like any other, Israel falls and the world falls with it. In contrast, when Israel awakens from its slumber and returns to its true essence, with the Name of Hashem on its lips, “This higher truth is what gives existence to the world, and life and perfection to all creatures. All who are fallen rise through it, all the oppressed and downtrodden will shine by its splendor, all sunken in the underworld will rise up, all polluted and darkened by folly and abomination – through this eternal light they will see and radiate with life. The life of Israel shines on, pounding in its soul with the beat of Redemption” (Ibid. Translation by Bezalel Naor.)

How can we awaken from our slumber? Today, as throughout our history, the challenge lies with our Rabbis, and especially, with the Chief Rabbinate which needs to undergo a grand spiritual revival. The message won’t come from Bibi, nor from the Knesset or Supreme Court. In addition to being our national guardian of kashrut and conversion, the Chief Rabbinate must become a beacon to the Nation, and to the world, with the Name of Hashem on its lips, reminding all of mankind that perfection and tikun lies in recognizing and embracing the G-d of Israel. What Rabbi Kook wrote in his time is equally true today:

“The Rabbinate is that great spiritual force, that crucial force which always shaped public opinion in the Jewish world. In our era, however, it has been greatly damaged, and its influence has waned. This development has a detrimental effect on every aspect of our collective lives. Now that we desire to reestablish and thoroughly repair our national lives, we must also implement deep and penetrating reforms into the Rabbinate in Eretz Yisrael, to breathe new life into this essential, spiritual force (“Kavod HaRabbinut,” Essays of Rabbi Kook, Pg. 52. Translated by Moshe Lichtman).

Especially because of the great disgrace which recently darkened the image of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, it must now make a great effort to renew its standing in the eyes of the Nation. To do this, it is not enough to continue on with its same daily halakhic concerns. Rather, it must rise up to a new level of Kiddush Hashem, by stridently reminding us of our true national calling in being a light to the nations, in every sphere of our national life.

Rabbi Kook writes: “The entire world waits for Israel, for the sublime light which shines with clarity in the Name of G-d, which shines in this Nation which Hashem created to recount His praise… the Nation which purifies the entire world from its impurity and of its darkness; the Nation which received a hidden treasure, a vessel of delight, with which the heavens and the earth were created; not fantasies of the heart, nor human ethics, not merely good intention and reason, not the wantonness of the material world with its values, nor the neglect of the uncircumcised body, its impurity, and the defiling of life and society, state and government, with their lowly pollution, and not the defiling of the world and its natural resources that fell with the sin of Adam – but rather the world waits for Israel to uplift all” (Orot, Israel and its Revival, 5.)

The time has come for the Chief Rabbinate to assume its rightful place as the compass and light of our Nation, raising the banner of Torah as our national flag, just as our great and fearless Sages of the past rallied the Children of Israel to remain true to its exalted Divine mission. The Torah scholars, those of deep understanding, who most deeply feel the disgrace of the Torah, mand the shallowness of our times, must rise up to the challenge. As Rabbi Kook writes:   

“Those of deep understanding rise in the midst of the night, their hands upon their loins like a woman in labor, and they cry out over the affliction of the world, over the affliction of Israel, the affliction of the Shechina, and the affliction of Torah. They lament and they weep. They know and they recognize the depth of the sorrow at its root, in all of its ramifications. They recognize that all of the afflictions and darkness, all of the rivers of blood which are spilled, all of the hardships and wanderings, all of the disgrace and pollution, are all only a frail, weak derivative of the echo of the voice of the same exalted anguish, the anguish of Heaven, the anguish of the Shechinah, the anguish of the absolute ideal cut off from its Source, and the loss of the lofty idealism in the spirit of mankind and its greatness, the anguish of the repentance of Israel, and the nobility of the spirit – the echoes of all of these voices are entwined. And they call for repentance. ‘And we are unto Hashem, and our eyes are unto Hashem,’” (Orot, War, 10).